Dinner party at Matsmak: the PhD disputationsfest

Written by on May 23rd, 2009 // Filed under Culīnaria, PhD

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro-Nilsson, PhD disputationsfest, Gothenburg

Standing at the set tables to the dinner party at Matsmak; I wore a pink pleated Tadashi gown with vintage gold tone jewellery.
Photo © J E Nilsson, David Neikter Nilsson for CMC 2009

The public defense of my doctoral thesis was followed by a dinner celebration held at Matsmak with Mikael Sande as Chef de Cuisine.

The evening event was surreal in the sense that Mikael’s restaurant had just moved to its new location at Drakegatan 1 in Gothenburg, and we were able to book the entire restaurant on a Saturday evening for ourselves. The restaurant, being located in a building with mainly offices, also meant that our guests had the entire building to themselves to enjoy that evening.

We had our seating outside of the restaurant, in the inner courtyard of the building that had white marble floors and a skylight roof that allowed the evening Scandinavian summer sun to stream through to the tables, where the light reflected pretty prisms off the rims of the wine glasses. Tall potted palm trees turned the inner courtyard into a cozy garden, so that you felt as if you were dining outdoors on a languid summer’s evening.

Jan-Erik Nilsson, disputationsfest, Göteborg

My husband, Jan-Erik Nilsson, during the cocktail session before dinner.

We had a cocktail mingle session with sparkling white wine before the actual dinner. This gave our guests time to acquaint themselves with each other if they had not already done so earlier on during the day. I was most happy to see a few friends and colleagues who had already graduated from the university, present at this dinner. It was like a reunion of sorts where you could catch up with what was going on in their lives.

Getting seated and making new acquaintances. Disputationsfest.

Getting seated and making new acquaintances.

The theme of the dinner continued in its French-Italian theme from the lunch buffé, though in this event, it was Mikael Sande who was in charge. Menus were printed for each guest with their names, according to their mother tongue and placed at their respective seating places.

Doctoral Thesis, public defense May 9th, 2009

Written by on May 17th, 2009 // Filed under PhD

Disputation Göteborgs Universitet. Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Kirsten Jaeger, Aalborg

Waiting for the public defence session to begin. The Opponent and main examiner was Associate Professor Kirsten Jaeger from Aalborg Univeristy, Denmark.
Photo for CMC: JE Nilsson and David Neikter Nilsson © 2009

One of the things that have dawned on me during the years I have spent working on my thesis is that writing a doctoral thesis and having it approved are done for various reasons, and thus approached in many different ways around the world.

One reason for people to pursue a PhD is to obtain a final, formal confirmation of their status as an expert in their own lifelong field of work. In northern Europe, you can research and write a PhD thesis alongside your full-time occupation, and there is no real rush to it. If it takes ten years or more, it does not really matter. That the time taken to write a PhD thesis is secondary to the quality of the thesis is very much emphasized here in Sweden, and these values are reflected in the average time to complete a PhD in Scandinavia, which is 10 to 14 years, without anyone batting an eyelid.

A more common reason for pursuing a PhD is in preparation to your academic career in your particular field of interest. This is mostly done at the university where you’ve received your basic training, by adding a research education on top of what you have already done in your undergraduate days. This is a quicker way and you follow the methods of the professor you have already been studying under.

Personally, I have a passion for research and pursued a PhD because I wanted to become a research specialist in a field of my own choice and one that I have pioneered myself out of pure interest, which is to study Scandinavian management / leadership in Asia, in particular in Singapore. I also wanted to use the two qualitative methods of grounded theory and systemics linguistics as analysis tools on business administration matters, while most other studies on management have thus far favoured quantitative methods.

Having come from a mostly Anglo-Saxon education background, I have also sped through, the best I could, the Nordic education system with 6 years doing my PhD, that included a year as a ‘visiting student’, the time spent learning Swedish as a third language, the sporadically offered compulsory PhD courses for all doctoral students and the writing of the thesis.

I actually saw this entire process as something quite enjoyable. To be able to dig into tens and thousands of words and numbers, get them into order and eventually start seeing them form into patterns of meaning and information, is actually fun. I realize this might finally position me as a true blue ‘nerd’, but so be it.

PhD Public Defence session

Protocols for PhD public defence sessions in Scandinavia vary according to which traditions the institution follows. Some universities in Finland are amusingly conservative, so much so that one can almost see how doctoral public defences were conducted during the Medieval times, while universities in Denmark can be quite modern and informal. Swedish traditions are somewhere in-between.

Disputation, Arkeologen, G&teborgs Universitet.

All in all, around thirty persons made it to the event last Saturday. Considering this was during a spring weekend, I was impressed and happy to see so many attending the disputation instead of setting up barbecue in their gardens or pretty much doing anything else at all.

The procedure during my defence session in Sweden began with the Chairman opening the session by introducing the participants, which were the Candidate (myself) and the Opponent, in this case, Associate Professor Kirsten Jaeger from Aalborg University, Denmark, who was also the main examiner in the examination committee.

Next step was for the Chairman to ask the Candidate if there were any additions or corrections to the text. Most candidates will have an “errata” list that would now be added to the thesis. This is important if there are any significant mistakes in the paper, for example, if the word ”not” was left out in the main conclusion.


Project LBD (Little Black Dress)

Written by on April 14th, 2009 // Filed under Moda

Angelina Jolie for St. John in a little black dress

Angelina Jolie for St. John

Scandinavia has varying codes of dress for the PhD viva voce, with Hanken in Finland being one of the most formal in terms of ceremonial rites and dress, up to and including how family members should dress and where they should sit during the event i.e. in the front rows of the examination hall. A brief extract from their website, translated from Swedish to English, on dress codes for the viva include:

The respondent chooses how s/he wants to be dressed and the opponent acts accordingly. For men, it is a choice between an evening dress or a dark suit. If tailcoats are chosen, the vests should be in black. In Finland, a PhD public defense is never conducted wearing a blazer or sweater. For women, the basic rule is that the dress or suit should be black. A white blouse and white accessories are fine. If you want to be hyper-correct, then wear only pearls as jewellery: they are white. At some colleges there are “defense caps” to borrow.

Opponent (the opponent) and kustos have their hats with the Act. They wear the hat on the left arm with the emblem facing forward during the entry and put the hat on the table in front of them when seated. The emblen on the hat should face the audience.

The family, friends and colleagues of the family should be slightly dressed-up. The next-of-kin should also be seated at the front of the examination hall. The viva however, is an open event and all who wish to attend can do so, regardless of dress. Acquaintances and those who intend to leave before the viva has finished, should be seated further back in the room, so that they can leave the hall without attracting attention.